Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Anonymous's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
- Full Title: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
- When Written: Sometime between 1340 and 1400
- Where Written: West Midlands, England
- Literary Period: Medieval Romance Literature
- Genre: Epic poetry, Romance, Adventure, Arthurian Legend
- Setting: The court of Camelot, then across the wilderness of Britain to Bertilak’s castle and environs
- Climax: Gawain’s long-awaited meeting with the Green Knight at the Green Chapel, where he expects to lose his life but, after much suspense, is spared
- Antagonist: Initially, it seems that the Green Knight, who destroys the court’s revelry and forces Gawain to face his own death, is the antagonist of the poem. But by the end, it becomes evident that the real conflict is between Gawain’s desire to adhere to the knightly code of virtues and his more natural desire to stay alive.
- Point of View: An omniscient, third person narrator. This narrator follows Gawain for most of his journey, and of all the characters comes closest to Gawain’s internal world, occasionally noting his thoughts and feelings.
All that Alliteration. When Sir Gawain was written, verse was primarily written in ways that were quite different animal from the rhyming patterns that are best known today. Alliteration, the repetition of the initial consonant sounds of nearby words, was the major poetic device of the time, pre-dating rhyme. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the model of an Old English alliterative poem, using an alliterative phrase on nearly every single line of verse.
The Beheading Game. While Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has a legacy of spin-off tales, it has also inspired a brand of adventure plots cutely nicknamed The Beheading Game, in which two characters engage in a beheading challenge. In fact, though, Gawain did not originate this literary idea, as it was passed down from even earlier Irish myths like The Feast of Bricriu.